In order to maintain and provide a safer environment, a number of innovative approaches have been implemented throughout the City of Elizabeth’s schools. One of the most successful efforts initiated by the Mayor is the partnership between the Elizabeth Police Department's Juvenile Bureau and the Elizabeth High Schools administration.
Recipient of many state and federal educational accolades, Elizabeth High School is the largest high school in the State of New Jersey. But even with its numerous achievements, the school is not immune to the problems facing urban schools today. In the past, Elizabeth High School experienced few incidents relative to its size, but few were too many.
In the past, one uniformed officer was assigned to the school area and was limited to writing reports and traffic enforcement. Any reports filed by this officer required follow-up by a juvenile detective. This created an inefficient situation in terms of personnel usage and lag time for response to critical situations.
The partnership entails the assignment of two juvenile detectives to the high school to provide a police presence with minimal intrusion into the educational atmosphere. By providing a threat of immediate police action while increasing the ability of the police to identify and apprehend offenders, Elizabeth has created a secure, safe environment for its students. In addition, this partnership gives students as well as faculty an opportunity to interact with juvenile detectives on a first-name basis and in a non-threatening atmosphere. Too often law enforcement has concentrated on negative issues and has been reactive rather than proactive.
The juvenile detectives are assigned to the high school from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. When appropriate, the detectives have been able to keep juveniles out of the justice system by meeting with opposing sides and working to resolve problems before they begin. This is possibly one of the greatest accomplishments of the program. By meeting with certain groups and their informal leaders, the juvenile detectives are able to dispel any rumors or untruths which may fuel troublesome situations. Also, an assault complaint filed by a parent does not provide any immediate help to a child who is scared to go to school. The detectives can take immediate action in these situations, working toward a peaceful resolution between the parties and reassuring both the child and the parent of a safe educational atmosphere.
The juvenile detectives assigned to the high school are well-suited to this assignment. One officer has been a detective for seven years, the last four spent in the juvenile bureau. The other policeman is a 1986 graduate of Elizabeth High School, familiar with the schedules and layout of the school, young enough to relate to the youth but old enough to command respect.
Each month City Hall field representatives orchestrate community meetings to involve and integrate residents into the local government process. Mayor Bollwage has taken advantage of this process: this police-school partnership was derived from PTA and community meetings coupled with an in-depth student and faculty survey.
Marie Krupinski (908) 820-4177
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.